Eric Hosmer, the 28-year-old first baseman, finds himself on the free agent market for the first time after six seasons as a workhorse for the Kansas City Royals. After JD Martinez, Hosmer is probably the best position player available, coming off a 135 wRC+, 4.1 fWAR season where he appeared in every single game for the Royals.
One of the things that’s most notable about Eric Hosmer is that there seems to be two different versions of the man. The first is the actual version, and the second is a media-and-fan creation. This isn’t unusual in sports, but Hosmer takes it to the extreme. Any objective evaluation sees him as an average first baseman with the bat, and below average with the glove. Conversely, the media-and-fan creation ranks among the best players in the game, offensively and defensively.
Since entering the league in 2011, Hosmer finds himself 28th among the 61 qualified first basemen offensively, with a 114 wRC+. The average wRC+ of these hitters is 111.75, so Hosmer barely clears the average. On total value, he’s accrued 9.9 fWAR in his career, which puts him 18th in this class of 61 players. One should note, however, that Hosmer has also played the second most games of anyone in this group.
Even if you wanted to filter out the older, inactive first basemen in that class of 61 qualified hitters, Hosmer still doesn’t look that great. From 2014 onward, we have a group of 43 qualified hitters. Hosmer ranks 17th in this group offensively, smack dab between Adam Lind and Chris Davis, and 13th in total value at 7.5 fWAR. He sits fifth in total games played over that span.
The point of all this is that Eric Hosmer just isn’t that great. He’s a fine, serviceable ballplayer, but he’s probably not worth the nine figure contract that’s been rumored for him. More importantly, because so much of his value is wrapped up in his ability to play 162 games, if he were to ever miss time, his value plummets. Hosmer doesn’t even have to break a bone or anything serious, either. A hamstring pull or bum shoulder that lands him on the DL for 20 games takes a huge chunk out of his value.
In an era of power hitters, Hosmer trails the pack again. 2017 saw him tie his career high in home runs, which sounds fine until you remember that home runs were hit at record highs the past season. Maybe you would defend Hosmer on the basis that Kauffman Stadium is a difficult park to hit homers in, but both Mike Moustakas and Kendrys Morales have been able to clear the 30 home run threshold while playing in Kansas City the past two years. Hosmer just hits too many balls on the ground - 55.6% in 2017 and 53% in his career - to provide much power regardless of the park he’s in.
So we’ve broken down a little bit of the offensive mythos around Hosmer, but one of the other big narratives that surrounds his play is his defensive wizardry. He’s won four Gold Gloves, including the most recent 2017 incarnation. Sounds like a great defender, right? Surprise, he’s not.
If we take our same sample from 2014 forward, Hosmer is 13th out of 16 qualified fielders in defensive runs saved, at -9. If you prefer UZR/150, it finds him in the exact same spot, 13th of 16, at -1.9. Now, defensive metrics, especially for first basemen, can be extremely volatile, but a sample size of four seasons, and how many games Hosmer has played in that time, shows that he’s just not that great with the glove either.
The final part of the media-and-fan creation of Eric Hosmer is the leadership qualities and clubhouse intangibles. He’s believed to be a great team leader. Personally, I have a problem with these kind of arguments, since only Hosmer’s teammates and coaches really know what he’s like off the field. He may be a saint or a devil, but no bloggers or commenters really know for sure.
Not only is Hosmer a merely-average first baseman, he doesn’t fit the Yankees plans. Brian Cashman has stated repeatedly that Greg Bird is the first baseman of the future, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else getting the chance to start over Bird in 2018. Further, even if Hosmer signs a contract that’s less than he’s projected for, it would be difficult to work in his cost against the competitive balance threshold, which the Yankees are dedicated to getting under.
At the end of the day, there’s no fit for Eric Hosmer in the Bronx, and he’s not really good enough to merit it anyway. His performance screams overpay risk, and his true talents just aren’t worth that much on the open market. When the PSA staff did our free agent predictions, I left Hosmer blank because I truly have no idea which team is going to make a real run at the first baseman. I do feel very confident, though, that that team won’t be the Yankees.